Astria Regional Medical Center

FILE — Astria Regional Medical Center is pictured on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020, in Yakima, Wash. 

A Yakima investment group wants to improve the region’s access to health care — and enhance the Yakima Valley’s economic prospects — through the

$20 million acquisition of the former Astria Regional Medical Center and neighboring Medical Office Building.

Quality of life and the availability of health care influence business moves, said Chris Waddle of Hogback Development Co., the investment group manager.

While the investor group wants a financial return, there’s also a vested interest in generating greater health care access in the Yakima Valley, he said.

“Health care — good quality and better access to health care — is one of those criteria that need to be met,” Waddle said. “Right now, in the Yakima Valley, we’re not meeting criteria.”

Plans from the investment group, Yakima MOBIC LLC, were revealed earlier this month when Astria Health filed documents seeking approval of the pending sale from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

According to bankruptcy filings, Astria Health received two offers for the hospital and the Medical Office Building, with Yakima MOBIC LLC’s proposal being the best of the two. Astria said the purchase would produce the best results for the health system and its creditors.

The court will hold a hearing on the proposed sale Wednesday.

Astria Health filed for bankruptcy protection in May 2019. It closed the 214-bed Astria Regional Medical Center in January, stating it did not have the financial wherewithal to operate it. The U.S. Bankruptcy Court approved plans in March for the state to lease the hospital for its COVID-19 pandemic response, but the state shelved those plans after determining there was sufficient hospital space in Yakima County.

The health care system continues to run hospitals in Sunnyside and Toppenish, along with a network of primary and specialty care clinics throughout the Yakima Valley. Astria Health is based in Sunnyside.

The neighboring Medical Office Building has housed several Astria Health specialty clinics, but most of them eventually closed following the shutdown of Astria Regional. Astria Health is operating the Astria Ambulatory Surgical Center there, but the rest of the 80,000-square-foot building is vacant.

Waddle said the Medical Office Building could see additional tenants as early as next fall. Getting the Astria Regional building into use will take much longer. The investor group has been working with ECG Management Consultants, a Seattle-based health care consulting firm, on possible uses for the hospital.

Waddle said it’s unlikely that the Astria Regional building would again be put to use as a hospital, but it could house some of the same health care services once offered in a hospital setting.

Using a hospital building ready for health care also depends on approval from the state Department of Health and other agencies, Waddle said.

“We may be just scratching the surface a year from now,” he said. “There may be a small portion that gets used by next fall, but the overall strategy — the full operation of that facility — could be another two to three years away.”

Reach Mai Hoang at maihoang@yakimaherald.com or Twitter @maiphoang

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